Walking preacher found to be a felon

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 6, 2008

NATCHEZ — The walking preacher who made a stop in Natchez a few weeks ago is reportedly a convicted murderer and rapist.

James Bowman made a stop in Natchez in early January, speaking at First Baptist Church and spending the night in a space provided by the Adams County Baptist Union.

He told area residents that he walked the country because God told him to.

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Locals discovered that Bowman was a fraud before he left town, but the truth kept coming out the more Bowman walked.

Bowman made his way north to Kennett, Mo., and while telling his story at a Sunday service Bowman was unaware the was a retired FBI agent in the audience.

Sensing something was not quite right about Bowman the retired agent contacted his buddy — the sheriff.

The sheriff in turn alerted his son Lt. Deputy Ryan Holder at the Pemiscot County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff told his son Bowman was headed his way.

“So I went to check him out,” Holder said.

Holder said he met with Bowman in the parking lot of a church on Jan. 30.

“I just got a very strange feeling from him,” he said. “A gut feeling.”

And Holder’s gut was right.

After running a background check on Bowman, Holder made some startling discoveries.

“He has been charged and convicted of several major crimes,” he said.

In 1974 Bowman was arrested and convicted on charges of second degree murder.

In 1986 he was convicted on charges of kidnapping and rape.

Bowman served time in prison for both crimes in Colorado.

Bowman’s story, as he told it in Natchez, was one about his salvation from drug addiction and how he subsequently began to wander the United States at God’s behest.

He would normally tell his story to small church congregations after meeting with their pastors.

He was careful not to ask for money directly, instead he told his story in such a way that people felt compelled to give him money, food and lodging.

No one but Bowman knows exactly how much he has made as a drifter.

And when he was in Natchez, no one knew how much of a bad guy he really was.

“He’s a con and a felon,” Holder said.

And worse that being a felon, Holder said, he has a hunch that Bowman is walking all over the country committing other crimes.

And most concerning to Holder is that Bowman’s DNA is not on file anywhere.

“There’s no telling what he has been up to,” he said.